Ghibli Movies Locations that really exist in Japan

Green, flowers, rich moss and tall trees, cities bustling with life and glimpses of landscapes that seem so true you would think it was possible to jump in at any moment. I confess I discovered Ghibli movies pretty late, when Howl’s Moving Castle came out, and since then I have fallen in love especially with the backgrounds. The details that make them look like they exist in real life, well, in some cases, they actually do.

Here is a list of places that inspired Ghibli locations in Japan. You can think about adding one or more to your trip to Japan  (●´ω`●)

The Secret World of Arrietty



The real life location of the garden in the movie The Secret World of Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ) is in Aomori and it is called Seibi-en. It was built at the beginning of 1900 and it is a mixture of Japanese and Western design.

Some members of the production visited the location in 2008 and it seemed just perfect for the movie. The garden is open every day and the entrance fee is 400 yen.

The movie shows the garden in spring/summer but the garden is beautiful also during the winter when it is covered in snow. More information on the Official Website.

From Up on Poppy Hill

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The Studio Ghibli movie From Up in Poppy Hill (コクリコ坂から) is located in Yokohama. It is well known that the area of Yamate is the place, recently a pole with the flags that can be seen in the movie has been erected in the park over-viewing the harbor.

Walking around the hills you can also spot two of the shops from the movie, the meat shop with the white tiles at the bottom of the windows and the flower shop with the large windows on the corner.

 Princess Mononoke

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The forest is probably the real main character of the movie Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫). The forest is the home of spirits and magical and mysterious creatures. It almost unbelievable that such a place can exist in real life but it actually does.

It is the island of Yakushima in the Southern part of Japan. The island is very rich in nature, covered in lush green. On the island the trails are well marked, included the famous Princess Mononoke Forest (もののけ姫の森). The bad news is that it is not easy to reach. Departure is always from Kagoshima City and the options are plane, jetfoil and the ferry, all quite expensive.



The story of Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ) takes place in a nice village by the sea. The real location is the village of Tomonoura near Hiroshima. The village is popular among Japanese tourists during the summer holidays because it very relaxing and there is fresh fish to eat but actually there is not much to see. I would recommend  going on a side trip from Hiroshima to enjoy a relaxing day by the sea.

There is also the chance to rent a bike to explore a little bit further but don’t try to look for the house on the hill because that was created totally from the mind of Miyazaki.

Spirited Away


The Academy Award winning movie Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し) is pure fantasy, the locations and especially the characters are totally fictional but there are some real life location that are said to have inspired the creators of the movie. One is the famous Dogo Onsen, the historical building of the one of the oldest hot springs of Japan located in the city of Matsuyama in the Island of Shikoku. It a peculiar building and it hosts also a special room reserved for the Emperor and his family, I am not sure if the emperor really comes here sometimes.



Another place that has inspired one of the locations in the movie is the stationery shop Sanseido in Koganei. From Tokyo Station you can get there in just 30 minutes riding the Chuo Line. There are other buildings in the area that will remind you of the movie, the area is included in the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum and Miyazaki has contributed too by designing the mascot of the museum. Do you recognize the location? Yes, it is Kamaji’s boiler house. Really impressing.


The Wind Rises 


The protagonists meet in a Hotel in the Japanese Alps, it is unclear which is actually the place but many say that the hotel has been inspired by the Kamikochi Imperial Hotel. The roof and the terraces look just the same, don’t you think?

Some other sources say that the hotel is another one, the Mampei Hotel in Karuizawa, especially exclusive and famous because Yoko Ono and John Lennon used to stay here.

My Neighbor Totoro


The location of the movie My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ) is the beautiful Japanese countryside  and, to be precise the Saitama Hills, just 40 km from Tokyo. As some of you probably know my boyfriend use to work in Saitama, he now works in Tokyo, and I visited him quite some times but never went to Totoro Forest. The forest is now managed by the Totoro Foundation. I hope I will have the chance to go there soon so stay tuned because I will obviously write about it.  (✿◠‿◠)

Whisper of the Heart

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All the places mentioned above have been an inspiration for Miyazaki and the other members of the Ghibli Studio but in this last case the location has actually been copied just as it was.

I am talking of the film location of the movie Whisper of the Heart: Seiseki Sakuragaoka. Outside the train station of this town just outside Tokyo there is a map to help visitor discover all the places that can be seen in the movie. A nice way to spend a day if you are a Ghibli fan!

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